WW1 Centenary

Great War Centenary 2014-2018 website by Paul Reed


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WW1 Books: World War I Battlefields Bradt Guide

bradtcoverWorld War 1 Battlefields: A Travel Guide to the Western Front by John Ruler & Emma Thomson

(Bradt Travel Guides 2014, ISBN 978 1 84162 484 6, 90pp. Illustrated, £6.99)

This new battlefield guide by the well known Bradt Travel Guides publishing company is an attractive and welcome addition to the books coming out for the WW1 Centenary this year. Clearly laid out and well illustrated in colour throughout, it is a handy pocket guide well worth taking on any trip to the Western Front.

The book starts with an overview map of the battlefields, some background information and general tour information, including details of battlefield tour companies. Part Two looks at the battlefields in Belgium from the coast at Nieuport to Ypres, and also taking in Mons. Part Three looks at France and covers Northern France, the Somme, the Aisne as well as the Marne, Champagne and Verdun. In each section not every location is covered but those mentioned are all good suggestions and do include some lesser known locations: the authors are to be congratulated for not just focussing on the obvious sites. There are also some good cameo stories about WW1 soldiers, including Jack Kipling for example.

An excellent overview of the Western Front battlefields and highly recommended for the new traveller to the Old Front Line as well as the seasoned battlefield veteran.

The book can be purchased from the publisher: World War I Battlefields Bradt Guide.

 

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Exploring The Western Front From End To End

The Western Front, established following the end of the mobile war in 1914, stretched for more than 450 miles from the Belgian coast in north Flanders to the border of Switzerland in the Vosges, in Eastern France. I have explored it from end to end a few times, the first time in the 1980s, and the last was in 2008. I am about to depart on the journey again as part of a Battlefield Recce for a new Leger Holidays Battlefield Tour I am running in 2014.

The majority of Western Front visitors never go beyond the Somme, except to venture perhaps to Verdun, but beyond Picardy is one of the most fascinating areas of the Old Front Line. In Eastern France there are vast areas of trenches preserved among the trees in the many forests and woods there, along with bunkers, mine craters and many other preserved area of battlefield. Some of the first shots of the war were fired here in the Battles of the Frontier and the first French and German fatalities occurred in this area on 2nd August 1914.

Over the next nine days I will be starting on the beaches of Flanders at Nieuport and working my way down the front, seeing many of these places. You can follow my journey on my Twitter account but I will also be using the trip to launch a new WW1 Centenary website called WW1 Revisited. This goes live properly on the morning of 1st March and will be a new site exploring my love of photography and the First World War battlefields.


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New French IGN WW1 Map

IGN1418

The Institut Géographique Nationale, the French company that produces high quality maps of the whole of France, has produced a new map for the WW1 Centenary. The map covers a major portion of the Western Front battlefields in France.

A press release states:

This map features the main front lines in 1914, 1917 and 1918. It proposes a series of circuits in vehicles or on foot, and of course, the location of the main sites of memory (cemeteries, memorials, forts, places of battle, destroyed villages …). A complete legend relates the dates and locations of major battles (1914 to 1918). A “zoom” target main front lines and battles (Reims-Soissons, Verdun, Paris-Lens). This map was published in partnership with “Mission Centennial 14-18.” The scale is 1:410 000 (1cm represents 4.1 km). It is in three languages ​​(French, German, English).

The map cost 7.90€ and it is available in French bookstores, newsagents and many sites on the WW1 battlefields or via the IGN website.


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WW1 Books: 1914 – Voices From The Battlefields

1914voices1914 – Voices from The Battlefield by Matthew Richardson, with a foreword by Dr Peter Liddle (Pen & Sword Books 2013, ISBN 978-1-84884-777-4, 296pp, illustrated)

The 1914 campaign witnessed the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) despatched to France where it took part in the fighting at Mons, on the Marne and Aisne, in Northern France and at the First Battle of Ypres. More than 370,000 British soldiers were awarded the so-called ‘Mons Star‘ for this period of the war and it witnessed the end of what one veteran called ‘The Red Little, Dead Little Army’.

With the beginning of the WW1 Centenary about to start, and a hundred years from 1914 next year, there are a whole host of books which have either just come out or are about to appear. Many follow well trodden paths and tell us very little new about the BEF and the ‘Old Contemptibles’ who were a part of it. However, this new book by Matthew Richardson is very different; it focuses on the ordinary soldier and his experience, and use a whole host of sources, many from the Liddle Archive which the author of the foreword of this volume founded in the 1970s and Richardson himself once worked in.

As such there is some genuinely new material here and it casts some fresh light on the BEF as well as serving as a superb companion to the battles of the BEF in the early months of the war. The book is well written and is illustrated throughout with many images from the author’s collection and private archives, most of which have not appeared before. Highly recommended, especially if you just want one volume to pop in your rucksack if you plan to follow in the footsteps of the BEF during the WW1 Centenary. The author has a similar book about the Somme in preparation and I very much look forward to that.

The book is available from the Pen & Sword website.


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WW1 Books: Marne 1914 – A Battlefield Guide

The Marne 1914: A Battlefield Guide by Andrew Uffindell (Pen & Sword Books 2013, ISBN 978-1-84884-801-6, 215pp, Illustrated throughout, maps, £15.99)

The Battle of the Marne was the first decisive battle of the Great War and although British troops were involved, there have been few published works in English and the last battlefield guide dedicated to the area was published by Michelin in the 1920s.

This new guide by respected military historian Andrew Uffindel fills a massive gap in our knowledge of this battle and the battlefield today. It is well written and the illustrations are a mix of contemporary images along with those of the ground as it is today. There is a colour section, and the maps are detailed and clear.

The book is broken up into seven tours looking at the area where the first fighting on the Marne took place, the Battle of the Ourcq and key areas connected with the rest of the operation. There are separate chapters on locations further afield along with advice on further reading and sources.

This is a fascinating book and an important contribution to our understanding of the Great War battlefields as it gives a clear lead to those who want to explore beyond Flanders and the Somme and do not know how. Highly recommended.

The book can be ordered from the Pen & Sword website.